Lazard and Evercore Partners are part of a slew of boutique banks reporting healthy upticks in revenue. Deals are flowing, earnings are up and everyone is in a jovial mood. This is a good time to introduce yourself to the boutique banks you want to work for. But heed my advice and do not become overly complacent. In a market where I am seeing applicants from bulge bracket families knocking for months on investment banking doors, consider employing a comprehensive 360-degree job strategy.
360-degree thinking is an increasingly popular method of improving effectiveness from the manufacturing floor to workplace culture. It recognizes the importance of decision making that involves and impacts all levels of an organization. In 360-degree job hunting, we focus on impacting all levels of your position sphere – the job position you are targeting and opportunities above, below and parallel to it. Let’s say your target job is a junior investment banker. It looks easy. Send in the resume. Trouble is, several intermediate bankers from Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns also have their resumes in.
Let’s do a 360. First, let’s spin around from side to side. What other opportunities are open in the firms you are applying to? Consider looking at analyst opportunities. Good experience as a technology analyst will help you make a lateral move as the M&A technology market, which is heating up, continues hiring. Boutique banks are gaining business by emphasizing specialized services such as financial advisory. This implies that they will need to bolster their pool of analysts. Asset management and restructuring are other core services increasingly in demand from boutique banks. What opportunities exist in corporate M&A? The bank may turn you down but you could land a job in the corporate finance department of its biggest client.
Next, consider jobs that will help you move up as the economy picks up and the demand for M&A staff grows. Is there a summer research assistant job open in the equity research department? Analysts were the first to be cut during the downturn but the big and boutique banks alike are all staffing up on analysts. The corporate finance department is a good place to be if you have M&A ambitions, and they always need accounting staff. Cut your teeth helping crunch numbers on equity and bond financings, acquisitions and divestitures. In the secondary market, consider slicing up tranches and selling securities. You will gain important knowledge of securities valuations and risk profiles of investors in the secondary market, which will be an asset when structuring and valuing corporate financings.
Aiming your job search higher may appear more challenging. The upper echelons can provide unsurpassed opportunities if you are realistic. Consider more junior positions working alongside more senior players. You can gain invaluable experience and contacts – and a little clout – working as an assistant to a managing director of mergers and acquisitions. Wall Street was built by modest bankers who worked their way up from the mailroom.
Conducting a 360-degree job search is an opportunity to become master of your universe. When you do land the junior M&A banking interview, you will have a repository of knowledge and contacts from informational interviews at all levels of the investment bank and its corporate clients.
Neil Venters is a finance professional with M&A and hedge fund experience. Neil is currently focused on providing freelance consulting services as well as Wall Street career advice.